Heart failure, while it may sound scary, merely describes a heart that isn't working correctly. That could be caused by a number of different cardiovascular diseases or conditions, all of which continue to be a prominent issue in India, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. As heart failure progresses, you may need to evaluate your options and a left ventricular assist Device (LVAD) could be the therapy you need.
An LVAD not only gives people with advanced heart failure more time. It can also improve quality of life. Some users have had their device for more than a decade and have been able to return to activities they previously had to abandon because of their symptoms. Before opting for this kind of device therapy, it's important to understand what it entails.
Who Should Consider an LVAD?
The best course of action for treating heart failure is to start treatment early. Though there's no cure for advanced heart failure, there are methods and treatments such as medicines and lifestyle changes that can help people with heart failure live longer and more active lives.
But even with proper care, symptoms may get worse over time, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports. Once the disease progresses to NYHA Class III or IV, which involves significant physical limitations and a declining quality of life, your treatment options narrow. Medications become less effective and your doctor may start talking about a heart transplant or an LVAD.
An LVAD is an implanted mechanical device that helps your heart pump blood throughout your body when your heart is too weak to adequately pump blood on its own. With more blood flowing through your body, you'll breathe more easily and feel less fatigued.
Originally, LVADs were intended to be a bridge therapy, a means of short-term circulatory support to prolong heart function long enough to enable people to wait for a heart transplant. However, not everyone is a good candidate for a transplant and even eligible candidates often wait more than six months for a donor heart. Some LVADs are approved as destination therapy or long-term support, which means they can be a permanent treatment option for those who need it.
Many LVAD users have seen significant improvement in their symptoms; they've been able to return to enjoying the exercises, work and hobbies they didn't have the energy to participate in before and they've had more quality time to spend with friends and family.
Ramprasad Garg, a 63-year-old, had a steadily weakening heart after he experienced a heart attack in 2009. Digesting meals and breathing difficulties became crippling for him. After numerous consultations with medical experts, the LVAD treatment was selected as the appropriate course of treatment for Garg. He was the first in India and second in Asia to be fitted with a LVAD device. Today, he is happy with how the LVAD has changed his life. "The highlight of my life post-the LVAD was that I could even dance at my son's wedding," Garg says.
Is an LVAD Right for Me?
If you're diagnosed with advanced heart failure, you and your doctor will likely be talking about your next steps. An LVAD device could be a good option.
LVAD surgery is often performed at an advanced heart failure centre. These specialised facilities are usually part of larger hospitals or academic medical centres and they provide advanced technologies and treatments for heart failure that other clinics can't.
Before committing to the procedure, your care team will conduct an extensive evaluation, during which you'll review the risks and benefits of the surgery and have all your questions answered. Surgery to implant the devices typically takes about three to six hours. During your recovery, your care team will review how to use the device, explain its components and discuss how you'll make your LVAD a part of your daily routine.
You, your loved ones and your doctors will ultimately make the decision together about whether to get an LVAD. Ask your doctor about when getting one may be appropriate and whether you're a good candidate for this device therapy.
An LVAD device could be a life-changing option if you're living with advanced heart failure. Start by talking to your doctor about your disease and what a heart pump would mean for your future.
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